What Stace had to say on Monday, March 11th, 2013
We Love Hearing From You

Very longtime readers may recognize this story, but I originally posted it six or seven years ago, and it’s relevant, so I’m telling it again.

Back in 2002 I attended my first Dragon*Con (which was awesome). Coincidentally, I’d just finished writing my Very First Novel, a totally abysmal medieval romance. (Seriously, I wish I still had the printed mss to scan some of it to show you. While I still believe it had a couple of quite good scenes, for the most part it was pretty bad: overdramatic characters, contrived plot points, an Evil Ex Lover making silly threats, a Big Misunderstanding…I honestly barely remember the plot at this point, but trust me, it was lame.)

Anyway. There I was at Dragon*Con, and I happened to notice a panel on women writing, so I hopped on over to see it. It was held in a tiny room in the basement, and there were maybe fifteen people there, which was quite sad as the panelists included Betty Ballantine and a writer I hadn’t heard of named Sherrilyn Kenyon.

It turned out, though, that Sherrilyn Kenyon also wrote under the name Kinley MacGregor, and I’d just finished reading Kinley MacGregor’s BORN IN SIN, as part of my research-based orgy of romance reading. And in fact, BORN IN SIN had been one of my favorites of the romances I’d picked up. So once I realized Sherrilyn and Kinley were one and the same, I was quite excited.

Excited enough, in fact, to make a total idiot out of myself after the panel.

I went bopping up to Sherrilyn, all full of vim and eager puppy-dog dorkiness, and gushed at her that I, too, was a writer! I’d just finished my first romance and I was hoping to get it published! Thankfully I did manage to slip in there that I’d loved BORN IN SIN–although I did also say that I’d had no idea who Sherrilyn Kenyon was when I came to the panel and I was so excited to learn she was also Kinley MacGregor and was that information public, which, FFS, moron–but for the most part, I said the sort of things that make me shrink in embarrassment even now, over ten years later. I asked, stammering and blushing, if she thought I should get an agent, as if I could head for the phone book and hire one just like ordering a pizza (I may even have asked who her agent was; I have honestly blocked much of what I said from my memory). I believe I bragged about doing research and said how much I love the medieval period. And then, in a denouement so fucking ridiculous it makes me cringe, I said, “Maybe one day we’ll have the same publisher!”

Like we were going to play on the Avon softball team or something. Like we’d be Publisher Pals and spend our nights having giggly slumber parties and telling secrets. Like my very first mss ever was obviously just as good as any of her books, and of course I could just walk into a publishing contract simply by virtue of having completed a novel (which was, btw, over 114k words of facile plot contrivances and exclamation points. I didn’t even know not to capitalize the pronoun dialogue tag after dialogue ended in one of those exclamation points, so the book was full of shit like: ‘”Unhand me!” She shouted.’).

Sherrilyn was kindness itself. She gave absolutely no indication that she found my questions ridiculous or my lack of publishing knowledge silly and/or naive. She answered my questions nicely and wished me luck, and left me feeling that, well, maybe I’d been a bit nervous, but it was okay. She left me feeling positive and encouraged.

Now, at this point, I had joined the RWA. I’d done a bit of research on publishing; I knew better than to ask some of those questions. But I asked them anyway. Why? Because I was nervous. Because I was intimidated–I’d never met a real-life author before. Because I wanted to seem like I knew what I was talking about. Because I wanted to show her I was serious. And–this is important–because having read and really enjoyed her book, I felt there was some sort of connection between us. She had spoken to me in that book, and I had responded, and that meant something to me; it mattered to me.

I have never, ever forgotten that day. Yes, sometimes it’s a hauntingly humiliating memory, but I still haven’t forgotten it. I was just some red-faced idiot, and instead of responding with contempt, Sherrilyn Kenyon treated me with gentleness and respect.

But it’s not just her politeness that I remember. I remember the things I said, and WHY. All those reasons I listed above: being nervous, being intimidated, wanting to seem like I knew what I was talking about, feeling like there was a connection between us, like maybe we could be friends; like maybe on some level, insignificant as it was, we were friends. I felt like I knew Sherrilyn, a little bit; she had come into my home and entertained me for a while.

Quite recently there was a blog post written by an author wherein she complained about an email sent to her by a reader, which she felt was rude because it referred to her work as “her stuff” (as in “I bought all your stuff”) and said something like “Why aren’t you writing faster!? Get to work!” She rewrote the reader’s email to be more acceptable to her and went on to instruct readers on what questions not to ask authors, Because Rude, or Because Stupid, or something. She complained about being asked questions when the answers are on her website.

I’m not posting about this to pick on that author, which is one reason why I’m not linking to the discussion(s) about it or giving her name (and I have altered some of the quotes slightly, too). We all have bad days; we all make jokes that don’t come off, or get bad advice, or whatever, and she is human just as the rest of us are. As I’ve said before, internet pile-ons have gone way past the point of amusing for me and into nauseating territory, and that’s one big reason why I have cut back on my internet presence so sharply. This isn’t about her, really–although I admit I find it tremendously difficult to think of how awful that poor reader must feel, being held up as an object of scorn like that for the hideous crime of loving a writer’s work so much that she bought all of it and emailed the writer to tell her so, and asked eagerly when she can further support said writer by buying even more of her work, and I found the post pretty horrific–except that she’s sparked several discussions that break my heart.

Those discussions are from readers saying they’re going to think twice before contacting authors whose work they love, because they’re afraid they too will be publicly humiliated in such a rude and painful fashion if they say the wrong thing.

Guys…please don’t be afraid of that.

My story above is about Sherrilyn Kenyon, but I am absolutely certain that you could insert the name of almost any author on the planet and they would have responded with just as much grace. The fact is, hearing from people who love our books is one of the best things about this job. I can only speak for myself and a few of my friends, but I/we don’t seek out reviews. I/we don’t visit the Amazon pages for my books; I don’t Google them (or myself, unless I’m looking for something specific, like a guest blog post I’ve done somewhere or something); I don’t visit their Goodreads pages or my Goodreads Author page, in general. As I’ve said before, if someone directly sends me a link to a review, I will usually click and read it, because A) that’s a specific invitation for me to do so, which means B) it’s probably a positive review, and I like to retweet those or quote them here as a way of thanking the reviewer/giving them credit for the review without barging into their space.

Emails from readers are the most amazing things in the world. They are. I’ve gotten emails that have brought tears to my eyes. I’ve gotten emails that made me laugh. I’ve gotten emails that made me feel like I was floating for hours, all because someone out there took the time to hunt down my contact info and actually tell me, personally, how much they loved my work and that it meant something to them, really meant something. Without wishing to sound as though I’m making a dirty joke, something I wrote touched them, and they touched me back. Isn’t that what writing and reading are all about? A connection with someone else? Isn’t that why we do what we do, whether we’re writing or reading or reviewing–to feel something, to connect with something, to reach out to something? To share something?

Sure, I’ve gotten some rude emails, too. I’ve gotten a few so offensive and outright threatening that I contacted their IPs. I’ve gotten emails that called me names, that called my characters names, that accused me of all manner of nonsense. They’re not fun. But being asked eagerly when the next book is coming, and can’t I write faster, is not rude. It’s charming, and it’s sweet, and while we all know that intent is not magical, the fact remains that in those cases, when the intent is obviously to flatter, it’s rather silly to take offense. This isn’t a male co-worker telling you how hot you look today and then going, “But I meant it as a compliment! You’re sexy!” It’s someone expressing delight in our work, and that’s not an insult. Especially when if we stopped and thought about it we might realize that behind that email is someone trying to make a connection with us, someone perhaps a bit nervous, perhaps a bit intimidated, someone to whom we mean something and our work means something, and maybe because of that meaning they feel like they know us a little bit. Someone who, aside from everything else, is probably not a professional writer, and is writing private correspondence, and so perhaps cannot be expected to phrase everything in a way that perfectly suits and flatters and pleases us.

I never expect that anyone will be intimidated or nervous when speaking to or emailing me; I mean, who the fuck am I? Nobody of any importance. But I’m also aware that contacting anyone you don’t know personally can be intimidating or can make one nervous. I’m also aware that there are indeed people out there–I’ve met them, and more importantly I’ve been one and occasionally still am–who are nervous or intimidated meeting a writer whose work they love. I’d be willing to bet that when Sherrilyn Kenyon headed for that panel that day, she didn’t expect anyone to be nervous or intimidated at the thought of meeting her, and yet there I was with my face beet-red and my hands shaking as I wagged my Newbie Writer tail in desperate, eager neediness, so excited to be talking to a Real Writer that I pretty much ran down a checklist of silly questions and statements.

I have been horrendously lax in replying to my emails. I’m ashamed of it. I’m so far behind I don’t even know how far behind I am, and that’s inexcusable. But that also doesn’t change the fact that I read and am grateful for every one of those emails. And every writer I know feels the same.

So please, guys, don’t stop writing to us. It matters–you matter. Don’t think the fact that one writer was having a bad day or is rude or ungracious or pretentious or mean means we all sit around rubbing our hands just waiting to pick on you for misphrasing something or misspelling something or simply saying something in a way that doesn’t meet someone’s idea of how to correctly speak to An Author. Most of us don’t expect perfection and we don’t expect you to bow and scrape. We love you just as you are, and are interested in whatever you have to say, and are happy to answer what questions we can, when we can. When you email us we’re grateful, not insulted or offended or angry or upset. Hearing from readers is one of the best things that can happen to us, and if that stopped it would be heartbreaking.

26 comments to “We Love Hearing From You”

  1. Laura
    Comment
    1
    · March 11th, 2013 at 8:30 am · Link

    That is great. And please keep all that in mind, because when I meet you (it will happen some day) I am going to be so excited & nervous I will most certainly make an ass of myself. :oops:



    • Stace
      Comment
      1.1
      · March 13th, 2013 at 5:50 pm · Link

      Well, Laura, rest assured I will sneer at you, then point and laugh.

      (I know you know that’s a joke.)



  2. Colleen
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    2
    · March 11th, 2013 at 8:58 am · Link

    This is a great post as I am sure there are a lot of us out there who are intimidated by meeting someone we admire. Years ago I met a Johanna Lindsey at the height of her popularity. She was promoting a book at a table in the middle of TARGET. I was thrilled…she was not! She wasn’t rude but it was obvious she wasn’t happy to be there…and I was the only person there. Following authors on FB has shown me that most of you are just normal folk trying to make a living just like me! ;-)



  3. Natasha/Wicked Lil Pixie
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    3
    · March 11th, 2013 at 9:14 am · Link

    Sherri was the first author I ever met, and by far made me love romance authors more. Go figure, I work for her publisher now. LOL



  4. slayra
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    4
    · March 11th, 2013 at 9:28 am · Link

    I couldn’t agree more. Heck I get nervous speaking to my co-workers sometimes (although I know that is not usual, but still)… I’d be a pile of nerves if I had to talk/write to my favorite authors (I had to gather my courage to even write this comment, ahah)! It’s easy to misunderstand things when we’re speaking through e-mails or letters. :|



  5. Seleste deLaney
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    5
    · March 11th, 2013 at 9:43 am · Link

    I totally agree with this. Except…

    I have an author friend who for a while was getting badgered by ONE person on Facebook every time she posted about doing anything other than writing this specific next-book-in-series. At first I brushed her off, but it got to the point where she would update her status about doing something with her kids and this person would comment something to the effect of “Screw your kids, you need to be writing.” Once she could blow off, but it got to the point that it happened so much it was stressing her out to the point of getting ill because she had no answers to give this person on the next book other than “I’ll let you know when it’s coming out as soon as my publisher gives me the go-ahead.” But that wasn’t enough for that particular fan.

    So, I guess my point here is: yes! Write! Ask questions you know you shouldn’t when you meet an author. Being nervous, being silly, being excited… they’re all awesome things. But… don’t do what that person did. It makes people want to be LESS accessible because it’s just easier. Most of us don’t want to do that, but we have to protect our sanity too.

    (Having said that, I’ve had certain fans ask on a monthly basis or so if I have any news about the next __________ book. Once a month or so is NOT being stalker-y. That’s fine. That’s excited. We love excited :) )



  6. KT Grant
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    6
    · March 11th, 2013 at 10:17 am · Link

    I’ve meet Sherri countless times and loved, loved her historical novels. She has to be one of the sweetest authors and people I ever met.

    I’m so lucky to have met so many wonderful authors who love to talk to readers and other writers and give advice.

    Love this post!



  7. Chris
    Comment
    7
    · March 11th, 2013 at 10:17 am · Link

    You just gave one more reason to add to my “Why I Think Stacia Kane is Amazing ” list. Now that being said, please get off the internet and start writing. I NEED more Terrible! ;) :) Ha ha!



  8. Shiloh Walker
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    8
    · March 11th, 2013 at 10:28 am · Link

    What Stacia said.



  9. Lexxie
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    · March 11th, 2013 at 10:29 am · Link

    Excellent post! And it’s true, it IS difficult for fans to contact authors we like. Even if we know you’re human just like us, it’s still exciting, and I think you hit the nail on the head by saying that somehow, and author we love has been to our house. Telling us at least one story :) in our living-room, our bath-tub or *gasp* our bed!

    And I had to LOL at Chris’ comment above me :D



  10. PJ
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    10
    · March 11th, 2013 at 11:30 am · Link

    Oh yes, I have a similar dork-out story from meeting Charlaine Harris. Fortunately, she was just as kind and gracious as Ms. Kenyon, but man do I get embarrassed in retrospect.

    And the public humiliation thing for bad phrasing in correspondence? Yeah, I’ve been on the receiving end of that from an agent-who-blogs because of a phrase I used in a query to her. It was crippling for awhile, until I realized it was a quirk of a specific person, not representative of all agents everywhere. So, thank you for this, from those of us who have felt the burn of shame.

    p.s. I LOVE your work. :-)



  11. jeffo
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    11
    · March 11th, 2013 at 12:16 pm · Link

    I read that post and was a little surprised at the tone of it. But as one of the great mass of unpublished, I assumed the author had just gotten that One Irksome Question one time too many and needed a venting session. In hindsight, she should have written the post, then deleted it.

    Good on you for not only remembering (and sharing) your own embarrassing moment, but for remembering the why behind it, and for being able to apply it when dealing with others.



  12. JessS
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    12
    · March 11th, 2013 at 3:40 pm · Link

    This is such a great post, and that’s exactly how I feel trying to talk to authors! Really enjoyed reading it, thanks!



  13. Seressia Glass
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    13
    · March 11th, 2013 at 3:51 pm · Link

    Can I cosign this post? Because. Every. Single. Word.



    • brighe
      Comment
      13.1
      · March 13th, 2013 at 7:10 am · Link

      completely unrelated, but is that Seressia from Atl?



  14. Seeley deBorn
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    14
    · March 11th, 2013 at 11:44 pm · Link

    One writer I met in real life… When I showed up at her book signing after being a regular visitor to her blog, she came around from behind the table to hug me and thank me for actually showing up. And it’s not like I was the only one there; the bookstore was standing room only for her. But she remembered my name. And was excited to see me, a mere reader and wannabe writer.



  15. BernardL
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    · March 12th, 2013 at 7:59 am · Link

    Agreed. They can call my stuff ‘stuff’ anytime. :)



  16. Escape Artist
    Comment
    16
    · March 12th, 2013 at 11:18 am · Link

    “…overdramatic characters, contrived plot points, an Evil Ex Lover making silly threats, a Big Misunderstanding…I honestly barely remember the plot at this point, but trust me, it was lame.”

    Ah, so there is hope for me yet! My plots are mucho-lame and I constantly come back to Chess’ dilemma in Unholy Ghosts and drool over how you managed to put her in such a tight spot to where she couldn’t just walk away from the problem at hand and then things get so deliciously complicated from there and just… drool. I can’t seem to do that for whatever reason, but your saying that you used to struggle with the same sort of stuff is very encouraging.

    And yeah, I’m pretty sure I’d redden up if I ever met you in real life… :oops:



  17. Courtnie
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    17
    · March 12th, 2013 at 3:47 pm · Link

    Yes. Just yes.
    Thank you for this.
    I’ve typed and deleted a bjillion things trying to find the words to say that I just wish there were more of you.



  18. AH
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    18
    · March 13th, 2013 at 6:55 am · Link

    Thank you for writing such wonderful books and for not being afraid to say what you think.

    +1 for Why Stacia Kane is amazing.



  19. brighe
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    · March 13th, 2013 at 7:12 am · Link

    i love you!! and your books! wish you were coming back to DragonCon this year!!



  20. Marie
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    20
    · March 13th, 2013 at 5:40 pm · Link

    Like others have said, this is one of those things that make me love you even more, as a writer and as a person. I really hope I get to meet you some day, to make a complete fool of myself as I blabber about how much I love your work. ;-)



  21. Jennifer
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    21
    · March 14th, 2013 at 10:42 am · Link

    Great post! I get so nervous I shake and feel like I’m going to barf anytime I email, tweet, or meet an author! LOL I always hoped that just came off as a compliment since I see authors as celebrities. Thanks for the fan appreciation!



  22. AK
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    22
    · March 21st, 2013 at 10:02 am · Link

    Thank you!

    You are an author I’m more than happy to support. If I didn’t own and love your stuff ( ;-) ) already, I’d be going out and buying everything right now, just for this post!



  23. Jane
    Comment
    23
    · March 22nd, 2013 at 12:12 pm · Link

    Congratulations on your being in the top five of B&N 20 Best Paranormal Fantasy Novels of the Last Decade!

    So happy for you and you deserve it. :grin:



  24. Melissa
    Comment
    24
    · August 3rd, 2013 at 8:12 pm · Link

    :roll: I really really love your writing you are the only writer that I read start to finish I also keep my husband up with a flashlight at 2am reading ur books I just can’t put them down omg thank u

    Melissa Celeste



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